Savabeel Filly Orchestral Scores Majestic Derby Victory

Media Release - Saturday March 2

Roger James is now the most successful trainer in the history of the Gr.1 Trackside New Zealand Derby (2400m), but even that enormous achievement was overshadowed at Ellerslie on Saturday by the new superstar of his Cambridge stable.

Orchestral and Craig Grylls stride to a phenomenal victory in the Gr.1 Trackside New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.  Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

Orchestral became the sixth Derby winner for James, following on from Tidal Light (1986), Roysyn (1995), Zonda (1997), Hades (1999) and Silent Achiever (2012). Saturday’s win took him one ahead of the great Colin Jillings, who had previously shared the record with five.

But for James, Saturday’s $1 million classic was all about Orchestral. The super-talented Savabeel filly outclassed her 16 opponents by three and three-quarter lengths, having won the Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) by three and a half lengths and the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) by four lengths in her two previous starts.

“I’m relieved, elated, awestruck,” said James, who trains in partnership with Robert Wellwood. “She just has an abundance of ability. She could be the next star, I think.”


The Derby has been a difficult race for fillies to win, and Orchestral joined Tidal Light, Popsy, Silent Achiever and Habibi as only the fifth to do so in the last 40 years. Three of them have been trained by James.

Orchestral’s breathtaking lead-up performances made her one of the hottest Derby favourites in recent memory at $1.30. Despite a slow start and settling all the way back in fourth-last in a strung-out field, James was never worried.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had a lot of runners in this race, and I said to Robert when they went out that I don’t think I’ve ever had one parade better out the back,” he said. “She just never missed a beat. She was cool, calm and collected.

“I wasn’t worried when she got so far back in the running. There was a lot of pace on, and I thought she’d outstay them. Pace makes the race. The best horse usually wins when there’s a good pace in the race.

“It was very, very special when she went to the lead the way she did in the straight.”

Orchestral was ridden by Craig Grylls, who had previously won the Derby aboard Crown Prosecutor (2019) and Rocket Spade (2021). But his feeling as the filly moved through her gears coming up to the home turn was something unlike he had ever felt before in this famous race.

“I wasn’t planning to be as far back as we were, but she didn’t get away that cleanly,” he said. “But there was plenty of speed on, which was good. At about the 1000m, I got on the three-wide train that was moving into the race.

“Passing the 600m, I just brought her out into the open and I could see them all coming off the bridle in front of me, and I just had a handful of horse. She’s some animal.

“It’s great for Roger and Robert and the owners, and a big thanks to them for keeping me on. She’s the best of those three Derby winners I’ve ridden, and I think she could be one of the best I’ve ever sat on.”

Wellwood took special satisfaction from Saturday’s win, joining his mentor James as a New Zealand Derby-winning trainer.

“It’s almost more of a relief,” he said. “When you have a $1.30 favourite, there’s so much pressure. The team at home have done a massive job. To get a result like this just makes it all worth it, and it’s unbelievable.

“I was still eight years away from being born when Roger won his first Derby. He’s been doing this for a while now, and I’m so grateful to be in partnership with him. He’s taught me a lot.

“Results like this are very special, and especially for owners who trust us to buy them a horse and spend the money that we did. It makes it pretty easy to wake up in the morning.”

Orchestral became the 33rd individual Group One winner for champion Waikato Stud stallion Savabeel, and his first New Zealand Derby winner.


The exceptional filly comes from a red-hot family – her dam is the stakes-placed O’Reilly mare Symphonic, whose full-sister Glee produced last week’s Gr.3 Matamata Slipper (1200m) winner Savaglee.

Orchestral was bred by Barneswood Farm and was offered by Haunui Farm at Karaka in 2022, where James and Wellwood bought her for $625,000 on behalf of owners Colin and Helen Litt.

She has now had eight starts for five wins and two placings, banking more than $1.57 million.

“This is a huge thrill,” Colin Litt said. “This race is the best test of a three-year-old in New Zealand, and we feel very lucky to have won it with a horse like this. She’s just an absolutely class filly, and I think we’re only just scratching the surface with her.”

James is now setting his sights across the Tasman, where Orchestral could contest the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) and Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m). James and Wellwood won last year’s Vinery with another high-class performer, Prowess. – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk



Race Result - Trackside NZ Derby Gr1 2400m

Ellerslie Track: Good(4) Time: 2:26.79
- 3f Savabeel (AUS) x Symphonic (NZ) (O'reilly (NZ))
Tnr: R James & R Wellwood Rdr: C J Grylls 55
NZB Karaka Book 1 $625,000
Seller: Haunui Farm
Buyer: Mr RA James / Mr R Wellwood
Antrim Coast
- 3g Roc De Cambes (NZ) x Coasting (NZ) (Sakhee's Secret (GB))
Tnr: S B Marsh Rdr: P Graberg 57
Ascend The Throne
- 3g Savabeel (AUS) x Thee Achiever (NZ) (O'reilly (NZ))
Tnr: Mark Walker & Sam Bergerson Rdr: O P Bosson 57
NZB Karaka Book 1 $575,000
Seller: Milan Park
Buyer: Mr DC Ellis
Just As Sharp
- 3c Swiss Ace (AUS) x Readyor (AUS) (More Than Ready (USA))
Tnr: Team Rogerson Rdr: R T Elliot 57
- 3g Savabeel (AUS) x Daisy Chain (NZ) (Pins (AUS))
Tnr: T Busuttin & N Young Rdr: S R Weatherley 57
What You Wish For
- 3c Embellish (NZ) x Grand Wish (AUS) (Smart Missile (AUS))
Tnr: Mark Walker & Sam Bergerson Rdr: Joe Doyle 57
High Country
- 3g Mongolian Khan (AUS) x Chaparella (NZ) (High Chaparral (IRE))
Tnr: A W Pike Rdr: M J Mc Nab 57
- 3g Zed (NZ) x End Of The Line (NZ) (Istidaad (USA))
Tnr: J R Wheeler Rdr: K R Hercock 57
Monday Melody
- 3c Snitzel (AUS) x Flora De Mariposa (AUS) (Frankel (GB))
Tnr: L O'sullivan & A Scott Rdr: M Hashizume 57
First Innings
- 3g Contributer (IRE) x Dream Run (NZ) (Pins (AUS))
Tnr: Andrew Forsman Rdr: Billy Jacobson 57
City Gold Ready
- 3g Perfectly Ready (AUS) x Five Sails (NZ) (Yachtie (AUS))
Tnr: A W Pike Rdr: L H Satherley 57
- 3g Almanzor (FR) x Perfect Offering (AUS) (Dubawi (IRE))
Tnr: S C Phelan Rdr: K A Myers 57
- 3c Redwood (GB) x The Warrior Woman (AUS) (Redoute's Choice (AUS))
Tnr: Team Rogerson Rdr: J K Riddell 57
- 3c Vadamos (FR) x Devil's Melody (NZ) (High Chaparral (IRE))
Tnr: L O'sullivan & A Scott Rdr: W B Kennedy 57
Renegade Rebel
- 3g El Roca (AUS) x Regalia (NZ) (Duelled (AUS))
Tnr: C W Cole Rdr: M Cameron 57
- 3g Tivaci (AUS) x Shellac (NZ) (Savabeel (AUS))
Tnr: S B Marsh Rdr: K Asano 57
- 3g Time Test (GB) x Sentosa Park (NZ) (Thorn Park (AUS))
Tnr: Guy Lowry & Leah Zydenbos Rdr: L J Allpress 57
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